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Google just reinvented search with scene exploration — here's how it works

Google Scene Exploration
(Image credit: Google)

About eight years ago, I reviewed the Amazon Fire Phone, a short-lived device that quickly disappeared thanks to a slow processor, low-resolution screen and short battery life. Perhaps the only interesting feature of the Fire Phone was something called Firefly, which could not only identify products, but could then also take you to Amazon so you could then purchase it. 

Google's new Scene Exploration feature seems to have taken this one idea and made it immensely more useful. Announced at Google I/O 2022, Scene Exploration will let you point your phone's camera at an object and then ask a question to help filter your results. And you can pan around while you do it to scan multiple objects in real time. 

Google Search Explore

(Image credit: Google)

For example, the presenter at Google I/O displayed a rack of candy bars, and then asked Scene Exploration to highlight ones that were highly rated, nut-free and made from dark chocolate. Scene Exploration then highlighted a few chocolate bars, along with ratings for each. And, of course, provided you a way to purchase them if you wanted.

Google said that the feature could also be used so that you could filter your selections by products from minority-owned businesses or other metrics. 

Scene Exploration looks similar to apps such as Vivino, which use machine learning to identify wine labels, and then provides ratings, tasting notes. Except with Google, it seems like you'll be able to search for anything. 

Scene Exploration is an outgrowth of Multisearch, which lets you combine both text and images when searching for something in Google. However, Scene Exploration looks like it will make it easier to find just what it is you're looking for. 

Google has not said when this feature will roll out, so look for it in the coming months.

Michael A. Prospero is the deputy editor at Tom’s Guide. He oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories, but also tests out the latest standing desks, webcams, drones, and electric scooters. He has worked at Tom's Guide for many a year; before that, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight or chagrin of his family.